How to Recognise What Narcissistic Behavior Is
Narcissistic behaviors come from an excessively high self focus. Having high self-esteem is an essential element in living a successful and happy life, however there is a line that must not be crossed. Knowing what narcissistic behavior is will help you avoid stepping over it and going into the wrong side.
High self-esteem is a positive trait, one that exudes confidence and attracts people to you. But when you become obsessed with yourself, and begin putting your needs and interest above those of everybody else, you become a narcissist. Your behaviors focus on your needs with no regard for others. They have the opposite effect and can cause people seeing you in a negative light. You may get some short-term wins, but many people will be less supportive. This is contrary to the formula of a successful life.
There are many distinctions between high self-esteem and narcissism. While narcissists often (but not always) have a very high opinion of themselves, the link between this and narcissism is unfounded. It is not true that everyone with high self-esteem is a narcissist, or that being narcissistic comes only about having this trait.
Let’s look a little more closely at narcissism to see how it differs from healthy, high self-esteem so we can dispel any lingering myths.
What is Narcissism?
First up, it is important to recognise that there is a difference between being narcissistic and having a narcissistic personality disorder. The latter is a mental health condition. In this article, we are referencing the general personality trait.
Narcissist behaviors result when you are excessively interested in, or admire yourself. This obsession may be your personality, physical appearance, or both. Some words used to describe narcissistic tendencies include self-obsession, conceit, and egotism. For most people with this attitude, their behavior reflects this. These include acting selfishly, having a lack of empathy towards others, being (or acting) entitled, and having a need for admiration from others.
To classify narcissism as a full personality disorder, the behaviors must be more extreme. In these instances, the behaviors interfere with the person’s ability to lead a healthy life and to have productive relationships with others.
Narcissism and Self-Esteem
A common misconception is that all narcissists have high self-esteem. Most times, the opposite is true. A lack of self-esteem can cause some to seek approval from others and become obsessed with themselves to make up for their lack of self-worth or confidence. Those with high self-esteem might not be narcissistic, because their high self worth is grounded in healthy, productive views of their abilities and value.
While people with high self-esteem often feel confident in their own abilities, narcissists take this a step further and feel superior to others for their talents. To feel superior, you are always comparing yourself to others. This can cause you to put down anyone who threatens your perceived status as being “the best” at something. Those with high self-esteem need not compare themselves, as they are confident in their own capabilities.
Being aware of who you are is one important part of maintaining this balance.
This distinction between self-esteem and narcissism is important. Most self-esteem stems from accomplishments we have achieved, skills we have mastered, and the values to which we adhere. The opposite is true of narcissism. It is based on fear. The fear of being seen as weak or of failing is a driving force. It creates an unhealthy focus on yourself and wanting others to see you as the best. Most narcissists are, at their core, insecure and feel inadequate, which is the opposite of having high self-esteem.
Those who are narcissists will often be envious or hostile toward rivals, while those with high self-esteem most often use compassion and cooperation with others. We can see them as two ends of a spectrum, ranging from dominance (narcissism) to equality (self-esteem).
Knowing what narcissistic behavior is allows you to see the difference between these two. This is key to understanding why having high self-esteem is essential and does not mean you will become a narcissist. Wanting to work on your self-esteem is a laudable goal. It should not be deterred by fears of becoming a conceitful monster.
By the way, remember that it’s never too late to take care of yourself, and then you can take care of others.